Eirene Pegonitissa (wife of John the Kaisar), protoproedrissa and doukaina, middle 11th century. Seal (Lead, 22 mm, 10.00 g, 12 h). [M]HP - ΘV The Mother of God “Blachernitissa”, nimbate, raising both hands in prayer. Rev. ΘKЄ R, / ЄIPHNH A/ΠPⲰЄΔPIC / S ΔOVSN, TH / ΠHΓⲰNH/THCH in six lines, decoration below. Unpublished in the standard references, but cf. Cheynet, Femmes, p. 44 and Jordanov, Corpus II, p. 348 (for another seal type of Eirene as magistrissa and vestarchissa). A wonderfully preserved seal of a Byzantine woman of highest aristocracy. Struck slightly off center, otherwise, extremely fine.
Eirene Pegonitissa was the wife of one of the most intriguing and important Byzantine figures of the 11th century, John Ducas, the sole brother of the emperor Constantine X (1059-1067). John was elevated to the rank of kaisar by his brother in 1060 and contemporary sources simply call him 'the Kaisar'. He was also the real power behind the throne of his nephew, emperor Michael VII (1071-1078). Eirene and John had married more than two decades earlier, but she died in 1064 after being bedridden from a quick-acting illness. Her personal friend, the brilliant writer and philosopher Michael Psellos, wrote a funeral lament in her honor, in which he says that he delayed writing her monody for fear of exaggeration because he was so heart-broken. Psellos heaped praise upon her, describing her as 'the best of women', beautiful and cheerful, the paragon of modesty and restraint, but also an educated and intelligent woman, who would discuss Neo-Platonism with him in the palace.